Top Brexit donor tells Theresa May to guarantee rights of EU nationals in UK

'People who are doing great jobs in this country are feeling insecure and I think it would be really good for those people to have the comfort that we are not going to boot them out'

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The Brexit campaign's top donor has called on Theresa May to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.

Peter Hargreaves, who gave £3.2m to the Leave campaign in the run up to the referendum, urged the Prime Minister to "make the gesture" of reassuring three million EU nationals they are not going to be booted out of Britain.

Mr Hargreaves, who retired after founding the financial advice company Hargreaves Lansdown, told The Observer he understood the reluctance to guarantee EU nationals' rights before Brexit negotiations.

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He said: “People who are doing great jobs in this country are feeling insecure and I think it would be really good for those people to have the comfort that we are not going to boot them out in 18 months’ time.

“I just think we should make the gesture, full stop. I don’t think there should be a quid pro quo, I just think we should make the gesture. They would look pretty churlish if they didn’t [reciprocate by guaranteeing the status of UK nationals in the EU].”

Mr Hargreaves went on to say he was happy to see EU nationals already in the UK maintain their current rights. 

“Most of those are in work and adding to our economy,” he told the paper.

“We are going to be very selective about who we let in in the future, but I think there should have been that comfort given, because they came under different circumstances.”

It comes after the EU toughened its stance on the fate of the three million EU citizens living in the UK, demanding even those without proof of residency be allowed to stay after Brexit.

Michel Barnier, Brussels' lead negotiator, insisted "red tape" must not be allowed to stand in the way of EU nationals remaining with full rights.

He said the same should go for UK nationals living in Europe.

Theresa May has been accused of having put forward no proposals for the future rights of EU citizens, despite wanting to settle the controversy next month.

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